Summary: With the Ninth and Tenth Commandments God protects his gift of a peaceful heart.
Do you remember flipping through the Sears Catalogue as a child? Which were your favorite pages? The toy section – especially the page which pictured the doll house the size of a dog house? I was always partial to the sports equipment pages. I would have loved to own every baseball mitt pictured in that catalog. A little boy, a first-time browser of the thousand-page catalogue, exclaimed: “Wow. There are so many things in here I didn’t even know I wanted!” That was the problem with those catalogs. It was hard to go back to playing with your old “boring” toys after seeing what other toys were available if only you had all the money in the world.
I don’t think Sears prints a thousand-page catalog anymore but we now receive weekly flyers from Best Buy and IKEA that continue to make us feel as if we don’t quite have everything we should. What does God think about these feelings of dissatisfaction? He’s very clear. In the Ninth and Tenth Commandments he declares: “You shall not covet.” Like all the other commandments, these last two are meant to be a blessing; they protect God’s gift of a peaceful heart.
So what exactly does it mean to covet? To covet is to desperately desire something God hasn’t given to you. So am I guilty of coveting if I’m thirsty and want a drink of water? No, but I would be coveting if I’m not content with the bottle of water I have and wish instead that Mom would buy me Gatorade because that’s what my friends drink. Feelings of unhappiness and jealousy are sure signs that we’re coveting. A heart that does not covet is a heart that is content – no matter what the circumstances. Is such contentment possible? Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote. “… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11b, 12). Paul expressed these cheerful words while he was imprisoned in Rome and facing a possible death sentence.
Wouldn’t you love to have a heart that is at peace no matter what the situation? What was Paul’s secret? Paul simply trusted that God would give him what he needed. Sometimes that was a lot and other times it was very little, but Paul believed that it was always the right amount. Indeed, isn’t this what we petition in the Lord’s Prayer when we ask: “Give us this day our daily bread”? If you remember the sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer last year, you’ll recall that what we’re really saying with the Fourth Petition is, “I’ll have the chef’s special!” In other words, “Lord, you know what I need and I trust that you will give it to me.”
Unfortunately what we’re usually thinking when we pray the Fourth Petition is “Give us this day Bill Gate’s bread…or the riches of any other billionaire and then I’ll be content, Lord.” But keep in mind that God first spoke the Ninth and Tenth Commandments to the Israelites in the wilderness. What did they have? They had the clothes on their back, a tent to sleep in, and graham cracker-like manna to eat…every day for forty years. That was about it. Still God told those people not to covet. As far as God was concerned they had everything they needed…and so do we who are so much more well off than those wandering Israelites.
Oh the Ninth and Tenth Commandments call for a lot of soul searching for us 21st century North Americans. Advertisers are good at getting us to think we need something when it’s really just more of a want. For example new 3-D enabled TVs are coming out now. Would it be cool to have one? Sure. Do I really need one? I don’t think so. For that matter do I really need a big-screen TV? I don’t. I know my heart and am convinced that if I were to go out and buy something like that now it would be because I’m not content with the TV I currently own. Should that TV break, I might consider upgrading to a bigger and better model. But even then I would want to question my motivation for doing so. Is it simply to keep up with the rest of St. Albert and to show off that I can afford something like that? If so, that doesn’t seem to be a God-pleasing reason.
Am I saying that if you own a big-screen TV, you were once guilty of coveting? Not necessarily. You see the Ninth and Tenth Commandments deal with matters of the heart. I know my heart but I can’t read yours. Therefore I have to be careful not to judge what motivates your purchases. If you showed up next Sunday driving a new car, for example, it would be wrong for me to conclude that you had given in to a covetous heart. Perhaps buying that new car was a matter of good stewardship. You traded in your old one for something more fuel efficient. The only thing my judgmental thoughts about your purchase reveals is that I have a covetous heart, for instead of being happy for you, I’m jealous and upset that I don’t have the funds to buy a new car.